core exercise

THE Core Exercise You Should Be Doing Every Day!

The Plank is a simple, but very effective and EFFICIENT core exercise that helps you build stability and strength throughout your entire body. The primary muscles involved are the erector spinae (muscles around the spine that straighten and rotate the back), rectus abdominis (the “6-pack” muscles), and transverse abdominis (a deep core muscle that stabilizes the low back and core).

The Origin

Some credit Joseph Pilates for the concept of the plank exercise, dating back to the 1920’s! Like standard planks, side planks recruit the transversus abdominis muscles, but also the glutes, obliques, and adductors as the primary muscles.

Why Should You Do It?

In today’s world we are in spinal flexion so often, hunching over our phone or computer – therefore doing loads of “crunches” is unnecessary. Instead utilizing planks encourages stacking the spine, improved posture and can greatly reduce the incidence of back pain.

The plank is a popular exercise in yoga, boxing, and sports because it not only increases strength and stability in the whole body, but it also trains balance and flexibility.

On The Go? No Problem!

Planks are perfect for that workout you need to complete at home or while traveling. No equipment is necessary, and it can be done anywhere! Your job is to make a plank hard to be the most effective. Before increasing your time in a plank make sure to master the form, only then increasing INTENSITY to make sure it’s the safest and most effective plank.

Tips For Improving Your Plank

1. In the pushup position, push up through the shoulders (shoulder protraction) to create stability so the upper back feels rounded arm to arm.

2. Set your wrists under the shoulders (in a low plank our elbows are under the shoulders) and stay there! As we fatigue, we tend to push away from the hands causing unnecessary strain on our shoulders, neck and wrists.

3. To keep your head aligned with your spine, pretend you are giving yourself a double-chin or you are up against a wall and pulling your head back against it.

4. When we train deadlifts, you may have seen a coach place a dowel or pole on a member’s back to have them connect their head, shoulders and tailbone to it while hinging. The same three connections should be seen in a plank.

PUT IT ALL TOGETHER!

Wrists under shoulders, actively drive your hands into the ground, double-chin, push up through the shoulders, squeeze your quads/front of your legs, squeeze/engage your glutes, and build tension in the legs by drawing the legs towards each other.

One final tension boost? Make it a STRICT PLANK by drawing your elbows/hands back as if you are on a rug and pulling it toward you.

It’s ALL About CORE! 6 Things You Need To Know!

What is the purpose of the core? Oh there are many, many essential functions!

Stabilization

Maybe the most common function of the core is to take excess load off the spine and to transfer force between the upper and lower body. When you throw a ball for instance, you have your core to thank! Back pain? Check in with your core muscles! Gastrointestinal problems? Your core even plays a role in your bowel movements!

Balance

Core muscles support your skeleton for balance (and for your ability to “Catch” yourself when falling). Try to really apply your core stability (hollow body hold tension) to your strength moves; squat, deadlifts, pushups, planks, and see the difference! Especially exercises standing on one leg. Just TRY to shut off your core muscles and you are probably going down!

Rotation

Core also helps with rotation and even more often, ANTI-rotation…Refer up to stabilizing in order to resist the movement. Core stabilizers include the pelvic floor, transversus abdominis (creates pressure and provides the most stability during dynamic movements), multifidus (small muscles in your back), erector spinae (think back extensions), obliques (moving side to side and rotation), AND the diaphragm.

Posture

Weakness in the CORE can change your posture – for the worse – therefore affecting the strength of your hips and ultimately knees and/or back. For example, in an abdominal exercise such as bicycles, your pelvis should NOT be moving. If it is, then you may not ready for that move and should take a step back to keeping the hips on the ground while just lifting the opposite knee/arm without speed or momentum.

Breathing

The diaphragm is an extremely important core muscle that contracts and extends toward the abdomen when we inhale and connects to the lower six ribs of our ribcage. When you inhale, your diaphragm flattens allowing the most air into your lungs. When it contracts it pushes everything else out of the way (and when your belly expands this is called belly breathing).

Try belly breathing – lie on the floor on your back. Legs bent or extended on the ground. Take a deep breath and inhale deeply allowing your belly to rise. As you exhale every last breath, let your belly draw in toward the ground. Practice this until it becomes automatic. When you apply it to your exercises, you’ll be surprised how much more stable and effective you are!

Now What? Put This In Action!

Not sure where to start?

Step 1: Learn spinal stability and breathing properly. Back or neck still hurt during movements? Start with pelvic tilts and increase the endurance/time of the hold.

Step 2: Once mastered, start adding complexity such as increased levers (hollow body hold), followed by slow movement (deadbugs) with levers.

Step 3: Add load/complexity (i.e. hold a plank and add alternating leg lifts).

Step 4: Add rotation (i.e. Soft Toss Medicine Ball shot put throw)

Step 5: Add dynamic movement (Step back lunge with sandbag t-spine rotation)